Derby County's Conor Sammon speaks of 'pride' after first Ireland cap
CONOR Sammon described his international debut for the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday as the proudest moment of his career.
The Derby County striker says he faces another massive game today as he looks to help the Rams close the gap on the top six in the Championship.
Derby take on Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough and Sammon hopes to complete a memorable few days with a win and three points.
The Dublin-born 26-year-old won his first senior cap for Ireland and played the full game in their 2-0 win against Poland.
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"It was an incredible experience," said Sammon, who has been overwhelmed by the messages of support and congratulations.
"I received messages from family and friends, from past managers and managers I had when I was a schoolboy and, of course, messages from Derby fans," he said.
"Everybody says it but it's so true – when you grow up playing football from a young age it does not get much better than pulling on your national team's jersey, in a home fixture and in an amazing new stadium.
"It was my first time at the Aviva Stadium and having my family in the crowd was a very proud moment."
Sammon admits he was surprised to be handed a start by Giovanni Trapattoni.
"To receive a call-up, to spend a few days with the team, getting to know the boys was a great experience and it was easier having my Derby team-mates Jeff (Hendrick) and Richard (Keogh) there," he said.
"I was very surprised to be named in the starting 11, first of all, with such experienced players in the striking department as Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox.
"I was thinking that, hopefully, I would get a chance to come on for 30 minutes and make some sort of impact.
"To start, get 90 minutes and for us to win 2-0 against a tough Polish team, it could not have gone much better."
Sammon felt more excited than nervous ahead of the game.
"The general and overwhelming feeling was excitement at the prospect of getting on the pitch. I felt I had nothing to lose and everything to gain," he said.
Now he hopes he has done enough to be involved in Ireland's World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria next month.
"I would love to be involved, of course," he said.
"When I was named in the squad as a new player, like Richard and Jeff, you know the opportunity you have got and it is up to you to grab it with both hands and show the manager you belong and can add to the squad.
"Jeff set up the second goal and we know the quality he has. He showed his ability when he controlled the ball on his chest in a crowded area just outside the box and picked out a lovely pass.
"Richard also got on and it was brilliant for all three of us to be on the pitch and make an impact.
"Richard has been outstanding for us all season. He has played every minute of every game."
So what will Sammon do with his debut shirt?
"That's an easy one, I'm getting it framed to keep myself – it's a shirt I will cherish," he said.
But now his focus is back on Derby and following up last Saturday's win against Huddersfield Town.
"I am loving every minute of my time here," he said. "I love my role in the team. I know what we are capable of as a team and our confidence is growing.
"We have a great chance in the next couple of months to push into those play-off places.
"We are six points off just now and have a massive game against Sheffield Wednesday and then a few midweek games. So the games will come thick and fast."